I had the pleasure to meet Evidence during the Rhymesayers Tour that passed by the Ancienne Belgique (Brussels) in november. Several days before Ev’s come back with his trademark band, Dilated People, I thought I’d share the man’s thoughts on some matters, past, present and future … We rap about Dilated People, the boom bap era, Yo Mtv Raps … more after the jump …
Dj Kwak : For the non Dilated People Fans, could you please introduce yourself ?
Evidence : My name is Evidence, I do represent Dilated People to the fullest and I’m excited and happy to be in Belgium.
Dj K : What’s your story regarding hip hop and rap ? I read you started in 1992.
E : Before I started in 1992, I grew up as a lonely child in Venice Beach (California). I was a skateboarder and a graffiti artist. My parents were musical people, party people. There was always music at home. Then, “Wild Style”, “Beat Street”, “Krush Groove”, “Style wars”, all these movies came around and it was the first time I could like something that was mine. Something they didn’t like. Living in Venice, it wasn’t like I left the movie theater and left the movies behind. I was seeing people doing what was on the screen, graffiti artists, breakdancers, so, to me, it was like I was living in the movie because people were doing here what I was seeing there. So, I wanted to be involved in breakdance and graffiti and that’s how I got involved in hip hop which is the way most people’s introduction to hip hop. People of my age, I mean … Later, my parents divorced, I had to move to Venice. I lived next door to a producer called QD3, he was Quincy Jones’ son. I then learned how the rap music I loved was produced. When you’re 12 or 13 years old and you see that, it’s highly impressionnable. I knew that was what I wanted to do.
Dj K : Is it how you started making beats ?
E : I didn’t want to make beats because, at that time, I couldn’t understand how QD3 would want to get behind the scenes. He was a good looking guy, he had dreadlocks, I was like “why don’t you rap ? get the bitches ?” you know ? I couldn’t understand why he wanted to stay in the shadows. But that’s how I learned “I am a producer, this is where I stand, I’m behind the scene, my father is Quincy Jones” and I had to respect that. I could identify to that. At the time I was a graffiti artist, and the two jobs, producing and graffiti, are very similar. It’s not what you look like doing it, it’s about the work standing for itself. You don’t see the graffiti artist looks like putting up the work, you just drive by the piece and respect it. It took Kanye West, maybe Pete Rock and a few other people to know what a producer looked like. You never knew what the producer looked like. You just heard the beat. I could relate to that eventhought I wanted to rap. And I hustled the beat out of him in order to get a demo done. I gave him a little money my mother gave me as a gesture and I got my demo. It was a big deal. I had friends who rapped, Will i Am (Black Eyed Peas), Alan before he was Alchemist, Rakaa Iriscience, Redfoo from LMFAO, all these were my friends and we were all trying to come up. We were in competition but it’s funny to see that one ended as a Black Eyed Peas, a superstar and I’m underground champion Evidence. We all find our own ways but we still respect each other so it’s all good.
Live at the Ancienne Belgique.
Dj K : Was Dilated People on a hiatus ?
E : One may say it’s not, but since we didn’t put anything out since 2006, it is whether you want to call it “hiatus” or not. Our plan were like “Dilated” is 3 different people, 3 different sides of the city, 3 different ages, “ different backgrounds, we didn’t grow up together. We came together to form something big but it was no secret that we were all going to do solo records. In our contract with Capitol Records, it wasn’t allowed unless we wanted to sign a 5 album deal on top of our 5 album deal. Being with a record company for 10 albums, that’s basically your whole carreer and it’s stupid. So I sat down, waited until my “Dilated” contract was over in 2006 when we fulfilled it and released my solo album “The Weatherman” in 2007, because that’s what i really wanted to do for a long time.
Dj K : Is it easy nowadays to make money as a rap artist regarding the P2P ?
E : it’s not easy for everybody. There is a lot of money to be made, it just doesn’t come in the form of record sales for a vast majority of artists. I look at a record deal for an album as a business card to develop more opportunities. You make money out of merchandising, live shows, endorsments, licensing … You got to be creative regarding that issue. There are a very few groups that are still selling a lot of records but for the majority of us, we’re weathermen in the middle of a storm and have to find a way to come back to that clean point, if ever possible.
Dj K : I felt tension in the “Cats and Dogs” album …
E : Is it good ?
Dj K : it is … I like my hip hop with a little tension, yes …
E : It is testosterone driven, indeed (laughs). Eventhought, I’m opening up more than I ever have before. I’m an influenced person. I’m getting older, there are certain things I am not afraid of sharing as I was more self- conscious when i was younger.
Dj K : Which things are you talking about ? More personal matters ?
E : If I say a punchline, for example, and you don’t like it, I won’t care. If you don’t like a song where I say I miss my mother, it’s hurting a little bit more. I was scared to put that kind of stuff on the line.
Dj K : Many years ago, you depicted yourself as “a New York type of driver on this LA terrain” … What do you mean by that ?
E : My family is all from Brooklyn, Coney Island and Brownsville to be precise. When I was a kid, every summer, we’d go to NY and I’d come back with New York tapes. So I was different. I was hanging out with mexican kids, with black kids without being black or mexican. I was like the “WTF” kind of kid. I guess NYC influenced me a lot, I suppose.
Dj K : Can this statement be understood also regarding the type of output you give ? The flows, the beats, the stories you tell ?
E : Yes, I was more influenced by EPMD than I was by NWA.
Dj K : Can the average Dilated fan expect another album ?
E : Yes, the deal is almost done. The album is called “Directors of Photography”. “DP” stands for Dilated People as well as Directors of Photography. The logo will be an eye. We’ve been taking pics all over the place through digital applications like Instagram for example … As we’ve all taken our time to make solo albums, our come back as a group will the the sum of 3 individuals on top of the group.
Dj K You are in Belgium with the Rhymesayers Tour. Is it more convenient for you to be on such an indie label ?
E : At this point of my carrer, I’d definetly say yes …
Dj K : Why ?
E : In my whole carrer, I’ve been like “Fuck the label”. It was an attitude. “The label was trying to get us to go pop, the label is trying to hold us back, the label this, the label that” … Being on Rhymesayers is my first experience that is not “fuck the label” … Rhymesayers is a label and a family. Plus, I don’t sound like anyone on this label, so … That’s why I like Def Jam so much … You know, back in the days, when you bought a record with Def Jam logo on it, you knew it was an enveloppe but one band wasn’t sounding like the other, on eproject wasn’t sounding like the project before. LL Cool J wouldn’t sound like Public Enemy, and PE wouldn’t sound like EMPD. I don’t sound like Atmosphere or Brother Ali. Rhymesayers lets us having our own lane, and that’s important. I didn’t make “Cats & dogs” with a “radio/video driven” track in my mind. I was rather thinking about Youtube than television … and one of the videos ended on MTV. It’s dope that rhymesayers has the ability to get me there but I never thought about it when making the record.
Dj K : Who would you quote as your main influences as an MC ?
E : I’m mainly influenced by the “Yo MTV raps” era the most … Special Ed, Ice Cube, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith, Big Daddy Kane, KRS One … 88-89-90 is the era that made me want to rhyme … now, to answer if I voluntarily have a throwback sound … I don’t know. “You’, the track produced by Dj Premier, as classic and “throwback” as it sounds, … but there is a modern edge to it. Maybe is it through the video, the visuals, the clothing, I don’t know really.
Dj K : Do you also have the feeling that those “boom bap” years are coming back to a certain extent ?
E : Everything works in cycles. So, a 15 year old kid that never knew those days might look for that sound, find it and bring it back. In the same way, in the 90ies, we were sampling 70ies records, in the 2000’s, we were sampling 80ies records; now in 2010, we’re sampling like “93 til infinity” by Souls of Mischief … A lot of new LA hip hop sounds like Freestyle Fellowship and Souls of Mischief … it’s dope ! You know, Odd Future reminds me of FF in certain ways …
Dj K : Thanks a lot.
Evidence and Dilated People in concert : Monday, february 13th at the Vooruit with Jedi Mind Tricks, Dj Lefto, Supafly Dj’s and Dj Odilon.